According to a study from the Mayo Clinic from last year, about 70% of Americans take prescription drugs on a daily basis compared to about 48% five years ago. These prescription drugs are not completely absorbed by our bodies and can enter the environment in multiple ways, most commonly through household septic systems or wastewater treatment plants. Pharmaceutical drugs can also enter the waterways during the manufacture, handling, storage, or even use of them. Even though the Office of National Drug Control Policy recommends not flushing unused drugs because many wastewater treatment plants do not currently treat the water for them, many still flush or wash unused pharmaceuticals.
These pharmaceuticals as well as personal care products, pesticides, herbicides and endocrine disrupting compounds, like BPA, are part of the emerging contaminants that have been detected in global drinking water supplies at trace levels. The EPA is working to address these emerging contaminants by strengthening the science for understanding their behavior in water, improving public understanding of the issue as well as taking regulatory action when appropriate. They also will be determining if the low levels of these emerging contaminants are a risk to human health.
The NSF International, a government agency that develops public health standard and certification programs to protect food, water, consumer products, and the environment, is currently developing a new standard for emerging contaminants, the NSF 401 Drinking Water Treatment Units – Emerging Compounds/Incidental Contaminants. The new standard will establish requirements designed to reduce emerging compounds, specifically 15 individual compounds including BPA, Meprobamate, Phenytoin, Atenolol, Carbamazepine, TCEP, TCPP, DEET, Metolachlor, Trimethoprim, Ibuprofen, Naprozen, Estrone, Linuron, and Nonyl phenol.
While these contaminants have been present in our drinking water in trace amounts for as long as people have been using them, as more people take pharmaceutical drugs, these trace amounts have grown to be more detectable amounts. Make sure you are only drinking the cleanest, best-tasting water by switching to a bottleless water cooler with state-of-the-art filtration and purification technology.